The Gospel according to Luke (15:1-10)
The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them he addressed this parable. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Opening Prayer: Dearest Father, may this gospel enlighten us with the incredible gift of your love. We are the pursued, you are the pursuer. We did not choose you; you chose us. May these words provide us with the grace that can convince us, remind us, embolden us knowing that we are not lost because you are always at our side.
Encountering Christ: Like most marriages my wife and I both have tendencies, idiosyncrasies that are both gift and challenge. One of my wife’s is her tenacity in looking for something she has lost. I sometimes get irritated by her relentless pursuit of what she is in search of. I tell her you can always get another of whatever it is. Or I say, the world will continue to revolve if that item is never recovered. What I fail to appreciate is that although the item may seem insignificant to me it is not to her.
On a more serious note, Ana, I, and our two youngest daughters were on vacation in Ensenada, Mexico. One morning we were at the pool with another family we had gone with. We left our two daughters in their care while Ana and I stepped away for just a few moments. When we returned, our youngest daughter was not there. The shock and terror we experienced for the next few minutes was unbearable. I will never forget the overwhelming relief when one of the hotel employees cme our way holding our daughter’s hand asking if she belonged to us.
In today’s gospel I am struck by two things. First, I wonder what God experiences when we are lost. Yes, He is God and does not need anything from us. Yet the one thing we can give him, that he doesn’t already have, is OUR love. As a father, our father he must feel sadness, anxiety, or some other form of loss. If what I experienced as a father who for a few minutes did not know where my daughter was or if I would ever see her again is any indication of how much our father loves, cares, and feels for us then I wonder what he feels.
Second, it seems that too often we Christians are not so Christian when we give up or push away people who need our prayers and support. The lost who wander because they have been rejected by family and friends. The lost who suffer the torment of separation even if they have much to do with the reasons that we all suffer from the distance that is the result of many hurt feelings. Yet God will always, faithfully, frantically go in search of that lost one. He will leave the ninety-nine to fend for themselves, because they can, and pursue the one who is far away from his and our care.
We, none of us are discards who can be replaced. Each of us has a value that is beyond measure, beyond even the reach of sin and death. God loves us so much that he will never relent in our pursuit, even when may not want to be found.
One lesson I think we have all learned is that when we allow ourselves to be caught by our ever-loving pursuer, we experience the overwhelming love and peace of he who knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb.
This world tries to convince us that everything, including human life is disposable. We are reminded that nothing could be further from the truth. We are the apple of his eye and we belong to him, not as a possessions but as beloved daughters and sons.
Closing Prayer: Abba, father, what a relief it is to know that you would leave your faithful to come and look for us when we stray from the flock. Like the prodigal son, our feeble attempts to return to you are met with the thunderous joy of a father who rejoices and asks everyone to join him in celebration of reconciliation. May heaven and earth rejoice!
Action for the Day: Jesus often told his disciples to do as he did. He tells us now “go and do likewise.” There is someone that needs us to go in search of them. Pray for the guidance, grace, and strength to take the peace of Christ to them. It is time to meet someone where they are not where we think they should be.